Ireland, Italy, Morocco, the Philippines, and the U.S. could spearhead the next wave of floating offshore wind development, according to Global Wind Energy Council’s (GWECs) report ‘Floating Offshore Wind – a Global Opportunity.’
The report sets out the enormous role floating offshore wind could have in the next decade to reduce reliance on fossil fuels such as gas, coal, and oil.
“Offshore wind is a vital tool in global action to decarbonize. While the focus of this decade is the rapid growth of fixed offshore wind, we also need to see political leadership so that large-scale floating offshore wind is ready to play its part in the 2030s and beyond,” said Ben Backwell, CEO of GWEC.
“As countries look to grow their renewable capacity to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, it is crucial that embracing new technologies is part of their roadmap. This is key to ensuring the potential for renewable energy is fully exploited,” he further added.
Based on the analysis by Aegir Insights, an offshore wind investment, advisory, and analytics firm, the report shortlisted Ireland, Italy, Morocco, Philippines, and the U.S. spread across the five major continents as the ‘chasing pack’ which could spearhead the next wave of floating wind.
The countries were shortlisted based on various parameters, including the floating wind potential, fixed bottom wind constraints, solar cost levels, land constraints on renewables, renewable policies in the country, the set targets in regards to wind, and their hydrogen commitments.
The chasing pack has a combined floating offshore wind technical potential of 3,861 GW. This is equivalent to between 2.6 times the current electricity demand of Italy and an astonishing 69 times the current electricity demand for Ireland.
The report shows the critical role of political leadership in kick-starting floating offshore wind markets. The market is nascent but could be huge as 80% of the world’s offshore wind resource potential lies in waters deeper than 60 meters.
For many countries, the technical potential for floating offshore wind is smaller than that of fixed-bottom turbines. If the offshore wind is to ramp up its contribution to net zero, rapid deployment of floating wind farms will be needed. This requires political leadership and support to make it a reality.
Image Credit: GWEC
The report highlights that Ireland has ambitious government plans, favorable site conditions, and an attractive floating offshore wind market if the transmission grid and port infrastructure are upgraded. The Irish Government has a highly ambitious plan for renewables, including offshore wind. It aims to reduce emissions by 70% before 2030 and have carbon neutrality by 2050.
From offshore energy alone, 5 GW capacity is expected to be generated by 2030. The government also has a long-term ambition of 30 GW floating offshore capacity for domestic use and export. However, the path towards this target is yet to be defined.
The report suggests that Italy’s absence of sites suitable for fixed-bottom wind will drive a focus onto floating offshore wind. The government is committed to the energy transition via its EU membership and has presented the National Recovery and Resilience Plan to make the post-COVID-19 recovery as green as possible.
Italy aims to increase wind power from the current 10.5 GW to 18.4 GW by 2030. Only 900 MW of the 18.4 GW are targeted to come from offshore wind, but the industry is calling for a higher target as floating wind is becoming a viable technology.
The report said that Morocco’s government wishes to increase energy security and lacks access to fixed offshore wind. The governments have shown the political will to set targets and work towards them. The target for wind is to add 4.2 GW between 2018 and 2030.
While the support mechanisms haven’t yet been used for offshore wind, they have worked well for onshore wind projects and are favorable.
The U.S. Pacific coast also lacks access to fixed offshore wind sites but has a high ambition from the state and federal governments, pointing to the rapid growth of floating offshore wind. However, significant grid investments are required, the report recommended.
In January, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced the New York Bight Offshore Wind Lease auction results, the nation’s highest-grossing competitive offshore energy lease sale. The department said around 488,201 acres off the New York and New Jersey coast was divided into six lease areas. The competitive winning bids from six companies totaled $4.37 billion.
According to the report, the Philippines is experiencing high economic growth, which is driving electricity demand. Floating offshore wind sites with good resources are located close to load centers. High growth rates leading to increased energy consumption paired with abundant potential resources of natural energy has made the government set high ambitions for renewables, including geothermal, biomass, solar, hydro, and wind.
The Philippines government has initiated an offshore wind roadmap project with World Bank Group and BVG Associates to formulate short- and long-term targets and policies to support integrating offshore wind in the renewable energy mix. However, tariffs and infrastructure could pose challenges. Floating offshore wind sites with good resources are located close to load centers, and the government has an ambitious plan. However, tariffs and infrastructure could pose challenges.
According to the report, floating offshore wind is now at the start of its commercialization. Success in the countries engaged in floating offshore wind already will see rapid cost reduction, meaning that floating offshore wind could arrive at the shores of the second generation of countries soon.
According to WindEurope, a Brussels-based association promoting wind energy, Europe had installed 1.3 GW of new offshore wind capacity in the first half of 2021.